Relational grammar

In linguistics, relational grammar (RG) is a syntactic theory which argues that primitive grammatical relations provide the ideal means to state syntactic rules in universal terms. Relational grammar began as an alternative to transformational grammar.

Term relations

In relational grammar, constituents that serve as the arguments to predicates are numbered. This numbering system corresponds loosely to the notions of subject, direct object and indirect object. The numbering scheme is subject → (1), direct object → (2) and indirect object → (3). A schematic representation of a clause in this formalism might look like:

1 P 3 2
John gave Mary a kiss

Other features


One of the components of RG theory is a set of linguistic universals stated in terms of the numbered roles presented above. Such a universal is the stratal uniqueness law, which states that there can be at most one 1, 2, and 3 per stratum.

See also


  • Johnson, David E. (1974/1979). Toward a Theory of Relationally-based Grammar. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics Series, ed. Jorge Hankamer. NY: Garland Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8240-9682-3
  • Johnson, David E. and Paul M. Postal (1980). Arc Pair Grammar. Princeton: PUP. ISBN 0-691-08270-7
  • Newmeyer, Frederick (1980). Linguistics in America. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 978-90-277-1290-5
  • Postal, Paul M. (1974). On Raising - An Inquiry into One Rule of English Grammar and Its Theoretical Implications. Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-66041-9

Further reading

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